Amazing Music Videos : Sabotage by Beastie Boys

Sabotage was the first single of the eclectic 1994 release Ill Communication. If I remember correctly, the hilarious video directed by Spike Jones is what propelled that strange hip hop/rock song to the top.

This parody of 1970s style cop shows was nominated for four MTV music video awards, but didn’t win any in the end. That doesn’t matter. It definitely deserves a spot on my amazing music videos list. Sure, the story makes no sense, but it serves its purpose well: providing the opportunity for 70s style dramatic cop & robber chasing, busting stuff open, jumping and sliding over car hoods… Utterly useless moves, but they are quite intense! Can you hear the squeeking tires from here? Are you nauseous from the over-the-shoulder camera action and all the zoom-in/zoom-out shots?

But the characters really are the icing on the cake. A nice little touch. Too bad that just when you’re done reading one’s pointlessly detailed info, he’s already exploded. And the secondary characters with their elaborate costumes and styles are super intriguing, but they get thrown over a bridge even faster.

Now, are our downtown streets well guarded by the intriguing Cochese and his boots, the chief and his axe, Bobby the rookie and his debatable choice of interrogation style, and the low-key Bunny?… Yes, I saw you Bunny, and I am grateful for your 2 second presence, since you seem to be the only not ultra violent fake cop around in this video.

If one of the Beastie Boys’ uncle had an old 1970s blue car that he didn’t mind seeing roughed up, then this video must have cost a ridiculously low amount of money, given that there are always garbage bins and cardboxes laying around. Well, you’d have to pay for the hotel room, a few props, and that guy’s salary for holding up trafic all day. And the person doing the editing of dozens of 3 second shots! But seriously, it always amazes me that so many memorable videos aren’t all about spending lots of money on cool visual effects. It’s all about the concept. The visual effects, or rather stunts, here, are old school to say the least, and it works perfectly well. That’s basically the concept.

So, thanks Beastie Boys, I laughed again, twenty years later, watching your video. And here’s a hint that your video marked a generation : for many years, people came to Halloween partys dressed up as your intricately defined characters. How’s that for an unofficial award!

Highlights : too many, so enjoy the whole thing. 😉

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Eric’s Trip, the charming indie queen Julie Doiron, and the legendary yet underrated Rick White

How does one manage to become a legend when one’s albums go so largely unnoticed? Or is that characteristic of indie legends?

This is a story that spans over 25 years. A story about music that, like so many, cannot be told without elaborating a bit on the personalities and dynamics of the interesting group of artists that created it.

It begins with a bunch of kids living and playing music in Moncton, New Brunswick, in the early 1990s. Young couple Julie Doiron and Rick White, along with friends Chris Thompson and Ed Vaughan are playing together in the alternative band Eric’s Trip, a name inspired by a Sonic Youth song. Like many of their peers in Moncton, they’re making a racket in their parents’ basement, recording some tapes, and playing energetically at small local shows, while the entire nation is listening to Michael Bolton and New Kids on the Block. Eventually, however, people started to notice that those lo-fi garage tapes from these unknown alternative bands were actually selling.

Three cassettes later, Vaughan was replaced by Marc Gaudet, a solid drummer used to playing in local punk bands. His fast drumming, Thompson’s melodic guitar, Doiron’s bass playing and soft vocal harmonies with White, the band’s main singer songwriter and undisputable leader, became Eric’s Trip final line-up.

Around that time, american label Subpop had already released Nirvana’s Bleach, the american grunge scene was making its way towards mainstream radio, and Sloan’s early successes were drawing attention to the Canadian east coast independant scene.

Eric’s Trip became the first Canadian band to be signed by Subpop. They refused Subpop’s first offer, afraid that they would lose out in the end, but the label then offered them full creative liberty (and a little more money) and they accepted. The band chose to keep recording at home with a four-track though, even after being signed. It was a good move. This raw sound fits them well, and many people in the public at that time were looking for honesty in music acts.

With people finally ready to listen, T-shirt&blue-jeans-wearing-long-haired Eric’s Trip was ready to take on the world. As you can see and hear from the performance below, their early live shows were pretty cacophonous (feeling nostalgic of the early 90s yet?), but their albums were always accessible.

In the midst of it all, Doiron and White’s relationship was getting rocky. The creative duo, who learned to play, write, and sing together, was a main force behing the band’s music, and their relationship troubles translated into their albums with bold authenticity. It translated most famously in their first album, Love Tara, released in 1993.

Love Tara is a record that is easy to love right away. The music shows impressive continuity and the stories being told are really engaging. Soft whispered love pleas blend in with loud cries of anguish. White was starting to get more into drugs around that time, and Doiron didn’t appear to be as interested in that scene, which threw a big wrench into their relationship. While on a break with Doiron, White started seeing Moncton’s Orange Glass member Tara Landry for a short time, in secret, a betrayal captured in the emotional song A secret for Julie. That would be the defining moment in the end, according to White who said Doiron never forgave him, but at the time, the two of them were not ready to let go yet. And all the while Eric’s Trip was getting more and more attention, and everyone was just trying to surf the wave and to keep afloat.

The Gordon Street Haunting was released a year later. It’s a short album comprising just a few songs that were strongly influenced by Doiron and White’s breakup, after a few months of being “on again off again” (at the end of the album, you can hear part of Doiron’s goodbye message on what seems to be White’s answering machine). Again, that transparency in documenting reality and the overall genuine quality struck a chord with Eric’s Trip young public. That being said, the moments of distress depicted in these songs were certainly mixed in with ordinary moments and days of chilling out and making music together without getting all worked up (otherwise it would be impossible to sing about the other person to the other person’s face and have him/her do the backvocals to boot!). Through it all, Doiron and White remained good musical partners.

Still, around that time, an saddened Doiron had begun writing her own songs under the name “Broken Girl”, and progressively withdrew from her band mates, spending time away with old friends including paintor Jon Claytor, whom she eventually started seeing. White was seeing Tara Landry again by then and had started a side project with her and Gaudet called Elevator. A little while later, Thompson began working on a side project as well, called Moonsocket.

Did Eric’s Trip lose momentum when the original inspirational couple separated? It would seem so, but to the outside world, Eric’s Trip was in full bloom and interest in the band was growing.

One night, Doiron announces to White that she’s pregnant, and it hits him very hard. His painful perspective of the event is immortalized in the song Forever again (among others), which is also, surely not by coincidence, the title of Eric’s Trip’s next album. With Doiron’s pregnancy, White and Doiron’s split now being definitive, and members of the band spending more and more time on their own projects, Eric’s Trip future seemed uncertain.

Forever again is a dramatic record, very introspective and with darker overtones. That album doesn’t have that perfect continuity that Love Tara had and, as I learned just recently, that disconnectednes was intentional. In these songs, just about everything seems to be collapsing, except inspiration! That album doesn’t necessarily have that “love at first sight” quality, but it definitely grew on me. Very much so in fact. It might just be my favorite now.

At this point, everyone’s side projects were evolving nicely, White and Doiron were getting married to their new significant others, Doiron gave birth to her first child, and Eric’s Trip released Purple Blue. However, the band seemed about ready to call it quits. The album cover is kind of eerie and appears to make reference to the growing distance between them. The songs are filled with loneliness, irritation, and sadness. But whatever’s going on doesn’t affect the album’s quality, the band is tighter than ever musically speaking. White’s new psychedelic inspiration is reflected in this album.

In the middle of a successful tour, White, suffering from panic attacks, announces he’s going home… An Exclaim! article quoted White saying that to him, the band was family, but with Doiron distancing herself from him “mentally”, and living in another city like Thompson and his girlfriend, White wanted to focus on Elevator. In 1996, Eric’s Trip is officially over, but not before the band plays a final show in Moncton, with, legend has it, none other than Sloan opening!

After parting ways with the others, White and Gaudet (and Landry) released several Elevator records and toured a lot. Elevator is a great psychedelic folk-rock band, a real enjoyable musical exploration which I am listening to relentlessly these days. And of course those trippy lyrics and sound are closely linked to the band’s heavy drug consumption. Staying true to himself, White changes the name of the band several times (Elevator to Hell, Elevator Through Hell, Elevator Through, Elevator) because it doesn’t seem quite right, even though Subpop people are losing their hair over it. Hooked on acid (notably), White entered a strange and relatively dark period, but he remained as prolific as ever.

Elevator is artistically interesting, like Eric’s Trip, but not playing by the industry’s rules has a price, and the band doesn’t make much money and that, over time, puts a strain on its members.

After a few years apart, former Eric’s Trip members started talking again and eventually got enthousiastic about a potential reunion tour. They tried it out in 2001. That reunion tour ended up being a great way for them to “bond” again as a band and to have fun as friends. White said in interviews that he was really glad to connect again, notably with Doiron whom he had not seen for years.

Since 2001, Eric’s Trip has reunited for several tours, and fans rejoiced. But that would only be the start of their renewed collaboration…

In 2004, White and Landry called it quits after becoming estranged. Elevator also separated, as conflicts emerged between the three members. At a loss, White went back to the roots. He stayed in his parents’ basement for a while and through reflection and art, got back on his feet and produced his first solo album intitled the RickWhiteAlbum. Afterwards, he moved to the countryside and released two more albums, Memoreaper and 137. He also released some demos in 2013.

All of White’s albums are great and got good reviews, but they kind of flew under the radar. The sound changes from album to album but White’s signature remains the same : personal, imagistic and highly symbolic lyrics, strong melodies, and a pleasant voice (a whisper at times) flowing over it all. The music he makes always seems to be closely related to his state of mind.

White is mindblowlingly creative, and capable : his inspiration is endless, he writes, he plays every instrument, he records and produces his own music, so he still doesn’t have to play by anyone else’s rules. Basically, he’s self-sufficient. In the end, the core similarities between Eric’s Trip, Elevator, and Rick White’s solo albums are a testament to White’s genius and dedication. I have no recollection of any former collaborator saying White was too controlling. Somehow, admirative of his talent and intrigued by his atypical nature, they chose to follow his direction (if you have 3D glasses laying around, check out his video below!).

Over the years, Doiron’s had a pretty successful solo career. Her songwriting always remained very personal, and unfiltered. It feels like reading an open book on her melancholic thoughts and her insecurities. On several records, especially the older ones, her voice is accompanied by a simple guitar melody, bringing the focus on the lyrics. She sings open heartedly about loneliness, longterm relationship difficulties, disappointments, feelings of incapacity, … Even so, her albums have a soft and warm quality. Daily life can appear gloomy at times, but here and there, you find hints of hope and joy. Her style is very influenced by the folk tradition and she has the perfect personnality for it : Julie Doiron might just be the most endearing person in music. The fact that she can play around with mellow acoustic sounds and heavier sounds is a real cool added value.

In 2005, Doiron and Claytor divorced as well, but they remained on good terms. With a few other people, they launched, in 2006, the independant music festival Sappyfest, a series of intimate shows which takes place annually in Sackville, NB (and it looks freaking awesome).

In 2006, Julie Doiron and Rick White teamed up again and made a critically acclaimed album “trilogy” together : White produced three of Doiron’s most recent albums (Woke Myself Up in 2007, I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day in 2009, and So Many Days in 2012). Gaudet and Thompson collaborated on a few songs as well. It’s nice to see that fruitful connection between Doiron and White play out so well, after longtime friendship and collaboration (and they’re clearly having fun ; a few youtube videos posted by White shows them giggling all the time). Both are much more experienced, and confident I assume, than in the early days. Julie Doiron has certainly evolved a lot since Eric’s Trip and is now much more well-rounded as a performer, musician, and songwriter. She also spends her time promoting the balance of a healthy body and mind through the yoga classes she teaches.

After almost three decades of playing music that has undeniable artistic qualities (I’ve skipped over several other great CDs and collaborations), Julie Doiron and Rick White appear to me as being national treasures in the musical universe. While sunny folksy relatable Doiron has more visibility (she’s currently on tour with The Wrong Guys), behind the scenes miracle worker and psychedelic influenced Rick White remains little known, although I read a few times that he’s becoming somewhat of a legend. White reveals himself in his songs just as much as Doiron, if not more, but the way he expresses himself is less accessible for most people. But at the heart of the forest where he is still happily living, he’s as intrepid as ever when it comes musical creations, as we can see from his youtube channel, bandcamp and other websites. Over the years, White has demonstrated that he has that rare level of sensitivity that allows him to bring out the best in his own performances as well as other people’s (friends’) performances.

So is White and Doiron’s music groundbreaking per se? Maybe not, but their contribution to the music industry is great, and part of this greatness comes for the “purity” of their creative process. stephen1001 recently told me about a quote from Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie : “I played Love Tara by Eric’s Trip on the day that you were born. I had to find the cuteness in the unadorned.” That quote works perfectly for their early years. And as they evolved as artists, their musical integrity was never compromised.

I’ve lost track of Thompson and Gaudet, but I’m sure they’re rocking it out somewhere. In Doiron and White’s case, hopefully, I’ll get to catch them live once, so I can testify that the legends are alive!

Iron and wine, Dustin Tebbutt : thanks for reminding me that I’m “indie folk” above all else

It’s been about two years since I posted here! Time sure flies by fast. So how can I mark this glorious comeback? Maybe by going back to the roots.

I’ve been a music lover ever since I can remember. When I was ten, my parents bought me a radio-cassette player and it completely changed my life. I’d hear a song that I liked playing on the kitchen radio while my parents were making dinner, and I’d run upstairs to my room like a mad person to press the record button. The sound quality was awefull and I could hear the DJ’s voice over the first or last 10 seconds of the song… but it was soooo worth it. I made countless mixed tapes since then, which remain, in my view, the best compilations ever and I still listen to them, once in a while. As a teenager and young adult, I worked (if you can call it work 🙂 ) at the school’s, then the university’s radio station where I had access to local demo tapes (very bad audio, once again, but these local bands were intense, so it doesn’t matter, right?). I listened to so many songs, so many styles… “as long as it’s good” is what I used to say to people asking me what type of music I liked. Songs accompanied me always, through good times and bad times (especially bad times).

Ah, the good old days.

After having kids, while still listening to music, I slowed down and lowered the sound a little, to be able to hear their shy and cute baby voices. Work and everything else got more intense and I’d basically just crawl up to bed every night dead tired. That, coupled with the fact that I am utterly useless with technology (I concluded that IT hates me) so even the easiest thing nano Ipod or whatnot would die out on me after a while. And yet, lately, it’s been irritating me. It’s been getting under my skin. I want to listen to something new, something good. Something that will really catch my interest, like back then.

Now, thanks to those youtubers who post really great music compilations, out of the blue, I found a few wonderful indie bands that I had never heard of before.

Dustin Tebbutt is an australian singer-songwriter, who’s debut EP “The Breach” has met critically acclaim, and for good reason. The eponym song is haunting, in a good way. It flows smoothly… and endlessly, since I listen to it on repeat. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to something on repeat.

Iron and Wine is an american singer-songwriter who already released several albums, and some of them were extremely well-received by critics, notably the wonderful “Our endless numbered days”. This talented and charismatic bearded fellow has apparently lived though a difficult time in the bible belt where he was raised, but came out of it with a very open and mature philosophy, as quoted in the Telegraph : “That was a confusing time for me, but I don’t miss being misled. I’m not an atheist. There’s an undeniable unseen world that some people call God and think they know more about than other people. I try not to get hung up on the names.” Well said, my friend. In these days of uncertainty and fear, your openness is welcome. So is your music!

I’m adding these two to my list, and if I can make it through my mourning period following the death of Leonard Cohen, I’ll expand my musical research and listen to their other, more recent CDs, and share the results.

Greatings and salutations to all WordPress bloggers!

Amazing Music Videos : Around the World by Daft Punk

A great music video usually builds on the strenght(s) of the song – powerful lyrics, intense vocal/musical performance, overall atmosphere, … –  to enhance it and convey emotions. That may be why so many successful music video directors are also movie directors. It’s the same idea in film, where directors enhance a script by creatively building on its strenghts.

But one might wonder how a music video director can succeed in enhancing, say, something like “club” music?…  I usually listen to singer/songwriters, so to me, getting inspired by beats and a few repetitive lyrics, however catchy they are, poses somewhat of a challenge… Yet, this Amazing Music Videos list already featured two success stories: Weapon of Choice and Praise you by Fatboy Slim, both directed by Spike Jonze. The video for “Around the World”, by French electronic band Daft Punk, is another great example.

The creative mind of French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature, several wonderful Bjork videos) came up with a world where squeletons, mommies, synchronized swimmers, robots, and giant though small-headed athletes dance around together on a vinyl record in a disco-style setting. The idea is quite simple: each group of dancers represent a specific sound/rythm. It’s a visual representation of the song itself. Clever indeed.

With the artistic direction Gondry and his team had taken, the thing they absolutely couldn’t afford to miss was the dancing. And they didn’t, it is very well-executed. The jerky moves fit really well with both the song and the characters portrayed (athough the mommies’ smooth moves at 1:28 is a memorable part of the choreography).

The overall result is a completely hypnotic video, which will make you “see” the song in a new light, so to speak.

 

Amazing Music Videos: November rain by Guns N Roses

This 9-minute long epic video of a classic song by American hard rock band Guns N Roses tells the story of a couple getting married surrounded by family and friends, in what seems like a beautiful dream, only to see it all come to a brutal halt when death tears the couple apart and drives the man insane (through raging insomnia). A bit dark and depressing you say? But is it, in fact, reality or a nightmare?

The video features Axl Rose and his girlfriend of the time, model Stephanie Seymour, as well as all of the band members who are seen attending the wedding, and performing live in a theater with an orchestra.

Remember how incredibly frustrating it was when radio stations would only play the first few minutes of the song and stop right before the intense part, which everyone loved most? But that did encourage people to watch the video in order to enjoy the entire song and see the poor lovers’ fate when everything crashes and burns (or rather drowns). The “November rain” video won the “Best cinematography” award at the MTV VMAs. Incidentally, it reminds me of the 80’s decade when videos were often structured as movies, telling a complete story with the singer/frontman(woman) as the protagonist (Pat Benetar and Cindy Lauper videos come to mind instantly). The themes addressed here, however, and the really dark undertones, are very 90’s.

“November rain” appears on the twin release “Use your illusion I/II” which were great subsequent albums to the fierce (and awesome) “Appetite for destruction” which introduced the band to the world. I’ll post about that CD eventually.

Andrew Morahan who directed this video, also directed several other GnR’s videos, as well as videos from many other artists including Simple Minds, Ozzy Osbourne, George Michael/Wham!, Pet Shop Boys, The Human League, and AC/DC. I have not seen all of his work, but, at first view, this video distinguishes itself as one of his most memorable ones. I believe it also introduced the band to a wide – really wide- audience; hearts softened as Axl played classical piano, smiled at the priest, and suffered after a lost love, and Slash acted like a cute goofy ring bearer… this after Guns N Roses completely tore the place apart with Appetite for destruction. But it’s ok, this is no easy power-ballad, “November rain” is a great song.

Ultimate highlight of this video for me: Slash going out of the chapel to play his solo in the middle of the desert. 😉

 

 

 

Amazing Music Videos: March of the pigs by Nine Inch Nails

Sometimes, less is more. Directed by Peter Christospherson, this video features an intense live performance by industrial alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails, filmed apparently in one take, in a bare room with white walls. Quite simple, in fact, but in such a minimalist setting, you absolutely can not fake your way through. You HAVE to be that good and to give it your all. And what can I say, it turned out great. It’s genuine. It’s noisy. It’s raw. It’s perfect.

Again, clearly you don’t necessarily need bling bling or oversized budgets to make a great video. What you need is a good idea, and to remain authentic.

Trent Reznor is slamming all over the place, into fellow musicians, throwing his mic around… and crew members keep coming in at just the right time so that everything can go smoothly. Great vid. Seeing it again makes me want to listen to their 90’s classic album “The downward spiral”. I bet, contrary to what some may have thought back then, that it has aged very well. Trent Reznor is a great songwriter and deserves to be recognized as such. I encourage you to listen closely to the lyrics and see for yourself!

 

 

 

Amazing Music Videos: Hurt by Johnny Cash

Let me apologize for waiting this long to post about this incredible work of art! A strong candidate for the number one spot in my Amazing Music Video series.

The adventure began with yet another incredible idea to come out of the brain of famous bearded genius Rick Rubin, a prolific and very influential producer who is responsible for several of the most important albums of the last few decades. Johnny Cash, now in his 60’s-70’s, had been working with Rubin on the American Recordings series: the AR albums comprise new versions of famous songs by american songwriters. On the fourth american recordings record, intitled “The Man Comes Around”, Johnny Cash performs a stunning and unforgettable version of alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails’s iconic song “Hurt”. Using the same strong lyrics (aside from the removal of one little word), he made the song his own and took it in a different direction, as an old man emotionally looking back on his life. While many I’m sure dismissed the raw alternative NIN song right off the bat were then surprised and blown away by it, once they let Johnny Cash do the storytelling (which, incidentally, is also relatively common with Rick Rubin’s albums – he breaks the frontiers of genres and brings out a performance that can be understood by a wide audience).

Directed by Mark Romanek, this video has nothing to do with “blingbling” or what not. It’s not about escaping reality by daydreaming about obscene wealth and fame and nonstop lapdancing (sigh…). It is a naked portrait of a legendary figure in music, now in his 70’s and in fragile health, looking back on his life and career as the “hell-raiser man in black”.  It’s an incredibly moving video, which won best cinematography at the MTV awards; Romanek really should have taken home the best video awards but he lost to Missy Elliot… at least he didn’t lose to 50 cents’s In da club! That was the year of the famous Britney-Madonna kiss too… but let’s rejoice that somehow out of this could rise a wonderful work of art which will stand the test of time (unlike others who shall remain nameless).

I heard someone say once that this video is like a baroque painting. What do you think? Here goes:

PS. If you haven’t seen my “Hurt – original vs cover song battle” between Nine Inch Nails and Johnny Cash, I invite you to take a look and make your choice (if you can, it’s a heartbreaking choice!) : https://songsuneedtohear.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/hurt-vs-hurt-nin-vs-johnny-cash/